In densely-wooded country southeast of Flagstaff, the small seasonal stream Walnut Creek has carved a 600 foot deep canyon into the
local Kaibab limestone as it flows east, eventually joining the Little Colorado River en route to the Grand Canyon. The exposed rocks in the canyon walls occur in various
layers, of slightly differing hardness, some of which have eroded more rapidly forming shallow caves; during the 12th to 13th centuries they were used by the local Sinagua
Indians who constructed many cave-dwellings along the steep well-protected ledges, high above the canyon floor. Today, the appearance of the canyon and ruins is
reminiscent of Mesa Verde National Park in Colorado.
The Canyon: Many of the dwellings were built around a U-shaped meander in Walnut Canyon, where the creek circles around 3 sides of a high rocky plateau, almost creating an 'island', and this region now forms the central attraction of the National Monument. There are many other ruins in the 20 by 0 mile area but they are not easily accessible. The dramatic location of the buildings makes Walnut Canyon the most interesting of the Arizona NPS historical sites to explore. Other contemporary habitations of the Salado people are preserved in the nearby Tuzigoot and Montezuma Castle National Monuments.
Trails: Walnut Canyon is close to Flagstaff and easily reached; just 7 miles east along I-40 and another 3 miles south on a short spur road. There is a good visitor centre with a small museum; the building is perched on the cliff edge with panoramic views east and west. Two footpaths allow for a closer look; the least exciting is the 0.7 mile Rim Trail, which traverses flat land along the canyon rim and passes a few scattered ruins. Better, although slightly more strenuous is the 0.9 mile Island Trail, a loop path that descends steeply (185 feet) with a long series of steps and circles the island. It passes by the remains of about 20 separate dwellings and has good views of the cliffs opposite, with other ruins clearly visible - the reddish stones used by the Salado contrast with the white striated limestone layers of the canyon. This trail is closed early (4 pm), so the park rangers can check that no-one is attempting to stay overnight.
Text from American Southwest website.
Map from MapQuest.